In the last 2 posts we tried to find a wise balance between the Christian principles of freedom and law, then applied that Christian wisdom to the debate on guns and gay marriage. Today I would like to guide us on a discussion on drugs.
I admit to having used drugs before I became Christian. Knowing their side effects, I am opposed to myself using drugs. Why do I not take drugs? Because making good decisions is hard enough in life, and the use of drugs interfere with clear thinking. I need to maintain a lucid mind to accomplish the things God has called me to do, but most drugs have side effects that impede my mental faculties and, on the long-term, can even alter my personality.
Therefore I do not recommend any Christian to use mind-altering drugs. One Christian friend of mine justified his use of marijuana because (quoting Genesis 1:29), “God has given us every herb bearing seed [to use].” Marijuana, of course, is euphemistically called “herb,” but is in fact a “weed,” which God cursed. Weeds are a part of the consequence that came upon the earth after sin. So I don’t think that verse qualifies for rationalizing drug use. He later agreed.
Having said that as a Christian, I am opposed to legally enforcing my principle on other people. The Bible does not strictly prohibit the use of what are now termed illegal drugs. Making up laws beyond the Word of God is what the Pharisees were guilty of doing. Who else admits to using “drugs”? In the case of cannabis, the list is long and famous: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Edwards, George W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Barack Obama, and even Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Think about the hypocrisy of such government leaders enforcing a war on drugs when they had all tried drugs and gave up. Think about how none of them would have become leaders had the drug laws been legalistically enforced. The reality we see poses more than a moral dilemma, it exposes the lunacy of our love of laws.
Christians need to be constantly reminded the limits of the law’s ability to solve human problems. This is not an “us vs. them” (Christian vs. Non-Christian) issue. The limitation of law to help us is true of all humanity. The more laws are passed, the less freedom we have, and the more control politicians have. God has given us freedom; we may use it to do good or abuse it to do evil, but there is absolutely no question God values freedom enough to take the enormous risk of giving it to us!
In general, the less laws we have the better. Any country that has less laws enjoys greater freedom and prosperity. Singapore has basically one law for individual taxation: pay 10% of your income. It is simple, easy to understand, and every Singaporean citizen I know seems happy to pay it. No time or money is wasted on tax reduction or evasion. Energy is put towards productivity and money flows into the state. One simple law (or better put, the lack of many laws which automatically escalate corruption and concentration power) results in freedom and prosperity.
Can less laws solve our drug problems? Not many people think it would. But take the case of Mexico. More than 60,000 lost their lives due to drug-related violence from 2006-2012. That’s an average of about 1000 people dying every month in a war that is completely unnecessary. Mexico’s crime and murder rate could literally be solved overnight. How?
By the United States simply revoking its legal ban on drugs. 80 years ago, the US government’s “war on alcohol” through prohibition legislation failed miserably and everyone who studies history knows it. Yet politicians are repeating a similar disaster in our days and we have not learned a lesson from history.
The new prohibition on drugs is the cause of violent crime and major social unrest in America and Mexico. Economist Doug Casey summarizes the current situation: “The only reason drugs are so profitable, of course, is because they’re illegal. If they were legalized, there would be about as much profit in them as any other chemical or agricultural business—maybe less, since marijuana can be grown in useful quantities in a one-bedroom flat. And of course, the more draconian the drug laws, the higher the price drugs command—which draws in more entrepreneurs.” I would just add that extremely high profits not only attract the Mafia, but also corrupt policemen whom drug lords need to befriend. The spiral of corruption, violence and death could end overnight by repealing the law which declares a war on drugs.
Most Christians would be flabbergasted at the thought of legalizing drugs! What would happen if drugs became legal? The same thing that happened when drugs used to be legal for thousands of years. Crime would reduce. The percentage of people who abuse drugs would be small. Farmers would grow more food instead of drugs. The only reason Afghan farmers grow opium is because drugs are illegal in the West. When its government stepped in to “eradicate” the illicit crop, higher drug prices pushed farmers to grow 18% more opium in 2012 than in the previous year! Crop sales then fund insurgents and gangs in Afghanistan, and this black market is made possible only because of some politicians’ decision to make a law that is beyond the Bible’s mandate for government. If drugs were legal, Afghan farmers would go back to selling their delicious apricots and raisins, and the Mexican Mafia would probably go back to selling tacos for more profit.
But wouldn’t drug use and violence increase if drugs were legal? The answer to this good question is not merely theoretical. We have solid evidence. Portugal gave up its war on drugs and overturned its anti-drug law in 2001. Drug use has halved and crime is down. Not only are most citizens happy, the police are too. They can now be friends with and offer assistance to soft drug users who used to hide from authority. Elisabeth Braw of Metro World News reports: “Since liberalizing its drug laws…the share of injection drug users has halved, to 0.5 per cent of the population. Overall drug use is lower than the EU average. In 2011, only 6.6 per cent of Portuguese 15- to 24-year-olds used cannabis, compared to 29.7 per cent in the Czech Republic and 23.9 per cent in Spain. And Portugal’s courts have been freed up to deal with more serious offenses.” Jeffrey Miron, a professor of economics at Harvard University, estimates that the United States government would save $41.3 billion on police, courts and jails if it decriminalized drugs, and earn another $46.7 billion on drug taxes.
Portugal illustrates what happens when we have fewer and simpler laws. Crime is low, drug use is low, ordinary free citizens have not become drug addicts, and the police and court system are freed up to pursue more important matters. But don’t let fear get in the way of truth.
Those in political power would like us to fear if society were less controlled by them. If the reader prefers fear as a motivation, then the alternative is Mexico – a crazy war-zone made possible by drug regulations. Given the examples of Portugal versus Mexico, which side should a reasonable Christian choose? We tend to assume that legislating our morals will help our society, but laws have unintended consequences, and too often we make it worst as every Pharisee in history did. Jesus Christ came to cure us of sin, one of the worst of which is Pharisaism.
But aren’t drugs bad? Sure, some have terrible side effects, but which drugs would you like to illegalize? One of the most consumed beverages in the world – Coca Cola – got its name from its two main ingredients: cocaine from the coca leaf and caffeine from the kola nut (the “K” in Kola was changed to a “C” for marketing purposes). Coca Cola was first marketed for its medicinal and health benefits! Though the cocaine has been removed (which concentrates power to one US company – the Stephan Company -which can legally import coca leaf into America), Coke remains highly addictive. Should we declare a war on Coca Cola? Why stop there? Why not declare a war on all drinks with caffeine?
Consider what would such a ban on caffeine do. It would but push the price of caffeine up and draw criminal entrepreneurs into a mafia-controlled black market for caffeine. Government would then waste personnel, money and time to combat all the illegal caffeine consumers. The wiser thing to do is to reduce the power of government. The only way to do that is to limit politicians’ power to legislate endless laws.
Let me clearly say again that I do not take or condone the use of any drugs. I have not taken a Panadol in my entire life. I am not on any prescribed or unprescribed pharmaceutical drug. I don’t even like caffeine. But I believe freedom to choose is better and more important than control through man-made commandments. The two prohibitions against alcohol and drugs were both abject failures. When will we learn from history? How many more lives will be lost before we renounce our love for unscriptural regulation and law?
Some will say that being so “pro-choice” about drugs is too radical for a Christian. I know that Christians will not stop moralizing over other people’s business, but for the few who are willing to examine their own beliefs in the light of evidence, I present this thought-provoking concept: a free society with few laws is better than a controlled society with concentrated human power. It is also far more Christian.
You might say it is a radical idea for a Christian to be so pro-freedom. I believe God is more pro-freedom than most people can possibly imagine. He allows each of us to “get away with” so much before reprimanding or correcting us. He is so patient, and if He were not, none of us could possibly stand before Him. Jesus is so kind to sinners that His kindness enraged the religious Pharisees. Their standards were being broken by Jesus and His disciples!
We Christians certainly must shun sin, but we must equally be careful about calling sin what God does not call sin. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.” (Matthew 12:7)
Are Christians ever guilty of condemning the innocent? There are Christians who won’t talk to other believers because they do not use the King James Bible! There is one person who won’t read my blog because I call the Body of Christ by the feminine pronoun “she” instead of “he”! (By the way, I use both pronouns because the Bible calls us both the masculine Body of Christ and the feminine Bride of Christ. There is no contradiction with our having both identities, just as Eve was both the Bride of Adam and taken from the Body of Adam. Therefore God called both of them “Adam”. Read Genesis 5:2 “Male and female created he THEM; and blessed THEM, and called THEIR name ADAM, in the day when they were created.”)
How well do Christians represent the true and living God? In American history, Christians were known for their Puritanical strictness and rabid witch hunts. Christians regulated things which were far outside the scope of the Church or any mandate from the Bible. They tarred, feathered and ostracized people who simply did not conform. They accused people of adultery and witchcraft (usually women) and judged them on this logic: if we throw you in a river and you float, you’re guilty and we will kill you; if you sink and drown to your death, we will know you’re innocent. The memory of this “Christian” legalism has a residual effect which still hinders much of our evangelism efforts in the West.
Has the pre-believer’s perception of us changed much since those Puritanical days? In secular culture, Christians are still unfortunately known for being critical, condemning and casting stones. What if Christians were known for our liberty instead of legalism? What if Christians were known for freedom instead of frivolous nit-picking?
Imagine if we were known for having a non-judgmental attitude while personally maintaining high standards and holy living. The world might finally see Christ in us, the hope of glory. That, I think, would be an even more radical idea.
There are certainly abuses of drugs, which violates one of the laws of life: do not aggress on other people and their property. How should Christians help prevent the abuse of drugs?
What is your opinion and experience with addictive substances?